The ad on Grays Online leaves no room for doubt: “Complete Brewery Closure”. And certainly the messages of surprise and commiseration passing around the Victorian craft beer world this week at the apparent demise of 3 Ravens – one of Melbourne’s longest established microbreweries – have seen those words treated as gospel. Yet, as with Dil in The Crying Game, things aren’t quite as they seem…
Here at The Crafty Pint we’ve been aware of “discussions” going on between the owners at the Thornbury brewery for quite some time. Yet, knowing that fairly recently they’d been weighing up a move to a location in Collingwood where they could add a retail side to their business, it hadn’t seemed they were ready to throw in the towel. And while there is still a distinct possibility that the brewery could be sold to the right bidder, there’s also the chance that it will live on. Confused?
Well, in short, there have been disagreements among the directors as to what to do with the brewery. The building that houses it has been up for sale, its current location doesn’t allow for a bar and is tucked far away from anywhere you’d get passing trade, while some of its directors have left or want out. Yet there remain those in place who – if they can find the right person to come in and help manage the business, find a new location and help them market the beers – are keen to keep a brand that’s carved a niche over nearly ten years alive. Certainly, there is no “Complete Brewery Closure” on the cards for the end of this month, the building has not been sold and new beers will be forthcoming.
“We had been looking for a place to move the brewery so that we could add a retail side to the business and thought we had found a place in Collingwood but it was going to be too expensive,” says director Peter Fitzgerald. “We wanted somewhere people could come for a drink, have finger food and where we would get passing trade.
“Discussions amongst the shareholders on the value of both the equipment and the business resulted in both being put up for sale – from my point of view, this was to allow another of the shareholders to decide if he wished to continue in the business. This would ensure a fair price was paid for any buy out, whilst leaving our options open to sell the whole lot, if an attractive offer was received. Thus, the staff were advised of the potential for their jobs to cease by the middle of the year.
“Unfortunately, data provided to Grays which was supposed to be kept confidential was posted on the website. This information included the name of the brewery and other data which should not have been released, but was intended to be offered, subject to confidentiality agreements, to any genuinely interested party.”
Peter describes the appearance and information in the ad as “stupidity” and says he is trying to understand how it came to appear as it did. He says the reality is that the options for 3 Ravens are:
- A trusted buyer comes in and buys the business as a whole
- Someone joins the business – potentially buying a share – and helps with a move to new premises
His hope is that it is the latter and that a relocation will ensure a future for the brewery.
“I’m not in a position where I can focus a great deal of time on the brewery so have been looking for someone with marketing experience who has a passion for beer to help us find somewhere to move to. But if keeping [3 Ravens] beer alive means selling the entire business then as long as we can find someone we trust – and as long as I keep getting a few cases!
“I was, at least in part, the catalyst behind the formation of the brewery and would dearly like to ensure that it continues. Many of my colleagues in our engineering company would also be mortified if the brewery that forms part of our history and culture was to cease operating.”
Certainly, the immediate future will bring more beers, including a Prussian Porter that was debuted at the Good Beer Week Bull and Raven Cask Off, a Double IPA and the latest batch of Double Ale Noir. Brewing of their other beers continues for now. How long for is another matter but, according to Peter, it will be beyond the May 30 date given in Grays Online.